Law and order in space

Finland joined the ranks of spacefaring nations early this April when it sent its first satellite into space. International law is striving to create space rules between the countries.

As space technology develops and costs diminish, an increasing number of nations are becoming capable of entering space. However, the UN treaties on space hail from the 1960s and 70s, when the only spacefaring nations in the world in any real sense were the United States and the Soviet Union.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty.

 “The proliferation of new technologies and private space enterprises has meant more challenges for applying laws, and more agreements that regulate the behaviour of various institutions but that are not legally binding,” says Jenni Tapio, doctoral student of law.

The space community is growing

Different nations have different reasons for reaching for the stars, which means that drafting new governmental agreements or amending them can be very difficult. As small satellites have become more common, more countries have been able to join the ranks of spacefaring nations, including Finland. Many countries have drafted national space laws to reconcile their  international responsibilities with private operations in the nations’ geographical areas through appropriate and transparent permit and monitoring processes. 

We have created new Finnish terminology while drafting Finnish space law.

With such national legislation, countries can also improve the competitiveness of their space technology companies on the international market. This February, Finland began drafting its national space legislation, hoping to adopt it early next year.

 “Because we are drafting the Finnish space law, we have been able to create new Finnish terminology for the field. The more attractive that the legislation makes this field, the more likely it is that it will generate new investments and companies,” explains Tapio.

Space technology is part of our lives

Space technology influences our daily lives, as many smartphone applications use satellite services. Digitalisation and the Internet of Things will continue to increase the importance of space technology and the control of satellite frequencies. 

For decades, Finns have provided state-of-the-art technology for a variety of international projects, and competitive Finnish companies plan to take advantage of emerging space technology.

 “Finland has solid expertise and training in technology, but another significant asset that the Finnish business sector should exploit is the success of startups and the support they receive. The European Space Agency ESA intends to establish a space startup accelerator in Finland, which would let new companies in the field take advantage of ESA resources,” says Tapio.

Moot court competition for knowledge on space and international experience

Since autumn 2016, Jenni Tapio has coached the Finnish team for the international Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court competition. The University of Helsinki is hosting this year’s European Regional Round. 

 “Hosting the competition was an excellent opportunity to highlight the University of Helsinki’s international profile and expertise. In addition, students received information about space and cyber law during the academic year,” explains Tapio.

This year’s question for the moot court had to do with commercial exploitation of space resources, 3D printing as well as national responsibility for space damages. Moot court competitions improve students’ cooperation and organisation skills in addition to their understanding of their subject – and while accruing credits. Law student Laura Kuusela joined the competition to add a more practical component to her studies.

 “The competition is a good opportunity to practise my oral and written legal argumentation,” she states.